Amanda Abel – paediatric psychologist
Most parents I speak to at the moment are feeling pretty terrified not only about COVID-19 but also about potentially having to home-school their children with looming school closures on the horizon.
While I haven’t personally home-schooled my child before, I definitely have some ideas that I know would assist with the potential challenges associated with educating your kids at home.
Tips to make the ‘school’ days easier with your child home during COVID-19
- Use a visual schedule to structure the day – simply write a list of what’s going to happen and roughly when (you don’t need to include times if that’s going to hard to stick to)
- Factor in movement breaks so they can burn off energy – movement helps many kids focus so having breaks every hour or so will be required.
- Get creative – practice skills in different ways i.e. writing in the dirt outside, using sticks and leaves for maths, cooking to practice maths skills, getting your child to write a review of their lunch to practice their writing etc.
- Use a “first this then that” system to keep motivation high i.e. “first we’ll do writing, then we can have a picnic outside”. You can even write this down to show the kids that there’s something fun on the horizon once they’ve finished their work.
- Use token systems to keep your kids on track and show progress through the day. You might give points for positive behaviour and once they earn 10 points they get a break for example.
- Use time timers to show how long various tasks will take – these are great (there are apps on the phone as well so you don’t need to go out and purchase anything) because they help show kids that time is passing which is super helpful if they’re doing something boring and you don’t have the authority of their classroom teacher to keep them on track!
- Set up an area of the house for school work – keep it distraction free, tidy and organised. Many families won’t have enough space so consider rearranging furniture for this period of time or utilising spaces like the dining table. You can keep all the school work and materials in tubs which can be packed up at the end of the day so that the dining table can be used for its intended purpose again!
- Set blanket rules like ‘no tv until after 3pm’ and stick to them from the start so that you don’t end up having battles around screen time every day. This is likely to be the biggest battle for many parents because kids are accustomed to having screens at home – and with their school and home worlds colliding it will be hard for them to understand why there are now different rules. Setting a clear expectation and being consistent with it is the kindest way to make things predictable for your kids, as well as easier for yourself in the long run.
- Limit screen time to avoid issues with sleep amongst other things and if your kiddo struggles with sleep try these ideas.
- Stick to a routine and keep it predictable – this links in with using a visual schedule but even if you don’t use one, keeping things predictable means your kids are less likely to feel anxious and consequently play up.
- Set up house rules to make everything clearer!
- Get the kids as active as you can – make sure they are getting enough exercise and activity even if it’s running up and down the hallway if you can’t go outside.
- You might also find this post helpful which I wrote about making school holidays easier as it has tips about how to manage at home during an unstructured time.
- Keep your mindset positive – remember it’s not forever, and we are all doing our bit to minimise the impact of this virus.
Good luck parents! As always, get in touch if you need more support during this time – our team of psychologists are available via phone and video call if you’re unable to get in!
Amanda Abel is a paediatric psychologist, mum, and founder of Northern Centre for Child Development (NCCD) and Hawthorn Centre for Child Development (HCCD) – multidisciplinary paediatric practices in Melbourne. Working directly and indirectly with hundreds of clients each year, Amanda’s mission is for every child to achieve their best outcomes by equipping families and educators with the tools they need to help kids thrive.